A Journey of 5000 miles . . . planning a two week European Vacation

A Journey of 5000 miles . . . planning a two week European Vacation

Eiffel Tower in ParisIt’s said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but our trip to Europe this summer took a bit of flying as well as planning.

As I was planning this trip back in January and February 2014, in the heart of winter, I was so happy to find many resources to help me to plan our adventure.  I learned a lot from many blogs, travel sites, and Pinterest posts.

Part of my challenge was trying to create a trip that was suitable for my 84-year-old mother and my fifteen and twelve-year-old sons.  We probably did a few things differently to accommodate my mother.

Having completed our two-week trip a few weeks ago, I’d like to share some thing I learned about planning a two-week European vacation with anyone who might find this helpful.

Traveling Relatively Light

20140615_102020Our biggest experiment was choosing to take one piece of luggage and a smaller carry-on for each of us.  In my case, I used an old Travel Pro 17 inch bag and a big black purse, and it worked marvelously.

My mother was not as thrilled by this idea, but she went along with it.  She bought a 19″ Briggs and Riley piece, which worked fantastically for her.

My kids used stuff we had around the house and smaller backpacks like the one showed up above.

The truth is that we are NOT Zen travelers when it comes to souvenirs, so I came up with a strategy that I hand’t seen anywhere else, and worked well for us.

My mother used the travel bags recommended by Rick Steves and others.  She liked them very much, but ended up buying another suitcase in Germany because of souvenirs.

20140615_101919The kids and I packed our clothes in another way, we used cloth bags and back packs that could be used as carry-ons on the way back. I knew we would want souvenirs, so I had the plan to check a piece of baggage on the way back from the beginning.

I ended up checking the white and tan bag shown to the right on our trip back home with my clothes, primarily because I was carrying some of my kids’ souvenirs.

I also packed my clothes in cloth purses, like the olive one shown above, which allowed me to have more purses, just because I like to change my look up a bit.

The main reason that we chose to travel light on the way there is because we were going to four cities in two weeks, and didn’t want to lose any of our luggage.  Having it with us on the plane made everything easier.

What to Pack

There are so many suggestions on what to pack for a two-week trip.  You can see some of them on my Pinterest board for European Vacation 2014.

Dining in Germany with Friends
One of our dressier occasions eating out in Germany

My mother did not really follow these recommendations, though she took less than what she wanted.  Ironically, she had outfits she didn’t wear on the trip, mainly dressy ones.

My kids and I wore everything that we took, a few times.  I never heard the kids complain once about not having enough clothes or feeling improperly dressed.


Still looking put together after a bit of a hike up to a castle in Germany

The kids each took with them:

  • a pair of jeans
  • a dressier pair of pants
  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • 6 short sleeved shirts
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • running shoes
  • 2 swimming trunks
  • a dressier shoe, like a Sperry Top-Sider
  • a light jacket
  • 2 belts
  • umbrella – we really needed this
  • a passport holder for around their neck

They had no problems on the whole trip.  We washed clothes in Germany and again in England.  I recommend the Club Quarters in Trafalgar Square London because they have a free washer and dryer, which was very helpful.

We wore the heavier clothes on our airplane flights to make packing easier.

It was cooler in London, I'm glad we all took jackets with us.
It was cooler in London, I’m glad we all took jackets with us.

In my case, I wore long skirts, t-shirt and jacket each time.  I’m not a big lover of jeans, which many travelers recommend on the overseas flight.   I brought this in my two pieces of smaller carry-on luggage.

  • 2 multi-color skirts
  • 2 pants – white and black
  • 2 light weight jackets – one tan, one black
  • long jersey black dress
  • flip flops
  • 2 shoes – tan sandals, black linen flats
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 tanks
  • short sleeve ivory blouse
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 3 bras
  • 14 pairs of underwear
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 sunglasses
  • 3 purses – two of them cloth, and one of them the main travel purse
  • more jewelry than I would take next time
  • umbrella – very helpful on this trip which had a lot of rain
  • soap
  • a travel makeup kit from Tarte – love their sustainable make-up

Again, look at my Pinterest page for some ideas on how to create palettes of colors.  I used tan, black and white as mine, with a few punches of color in shirts and skirts.

Probably the only thing you absolutely need on a trip to Europe is your passport!

You can see, I’m not really a Spartan traveler, but found ways to have everything I needed for the trip packed into two smallish bags. I carried some of these clothes in my large black purse.  After an incident where my mother’s luggage was lost a few years ago, I always carry at least one outfit with me on the plane. 🙂

I also did something a friend of mine had told me about, which isn’t totally sustainably, but I felt ok when I did it, because it lightened up my suitcase.  I took clothes that were older and I would feel fine about discarding in Europe.   One was the tan sandals, which were older.  I also took old underwear and got rid of them as I went along.  I didn’t want to be washing them in a room with four people in it, though I did hand-wash other clothes.

The only thing that I regret is that I took more jewelry than I needed.  I would recommend just a few pieces.

I was also carrying copies of the trip itinerary, a copy of all of our passports in case they got lost, and some guide books and foreign language books.  We didn’t use the language books at all, because I knew just enough French and German to get by.  Lots of people spoke English

This may be more details than you wanted, but I know that I was searching for this information as I planned for the trip, and thought some of you might find it helpful.

And if all else fails, do as my European friend Ralf suggests, go on a trip with an empty suitcase and pick up everything you need when you get there!

In the next blog post, I’ll talk about some of the travel planning services that I used that were very useful.

Today’s Contemplation:

Do you have any travel trips that have served you well on longer trips overseas?






2 thoughts on “A Journey of 5000 miles . . . planning a two week European Vacation

    1. Good advice! I forgot to mention that we forgot the dramamine for my youngest son’s motion sickness. We ended up picking up travel gum in Austria which worked quite well!


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